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Presentació "Enabling Knowledge Creation in Judicial Environments: the Case of Catalonia‘s Public Administration"


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Presentació del programa Compartim a la 5th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning, New York Institute of Technology

Presentación del programa Compartim en la 5th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning, New York Institute of Technology.

Presentation of the program Compartim in 5th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning, New York Institute of Technology.

Nova York, 10 d'octubre de 2008.

Published in: Education
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Presentació "Enabling Knowledge Creation in Judicial Environments: the Case of Catalonia‘s Public Administration"

  1. 1. Enabling Knowledge Creation in Judicial Environments: the Case of Catalonia‘s Public Administration Dr. Mario Pérez-Montoro1, Jesús Martínez2 1 Department of Library and Information Science, University of Barcelona, Spain 2 Center for Legal Studies and Specialist Training, Justice Department, Generalitat, Government of Catalonia Abstract: The last two years has seen the implementation of a project of Knowledge Management in the justice department of the Generalitat, Government of Catalonia. This project seeks to enable the community of workers in this administration to find a suitable context for the creation of knowledge and also to benefit from this knowledge such that each member of the community ends up contributing more efficiently to the collective aim that is being pursued: to improve and streamline day- to-day praxis. The project has been developed on a network of communities of practice, coordinated by a central organizational figure: the e-moderator, one of a few key people in the department who aims to encourage and create a collaborative environment to facilitate creation, exchange and knowledge sharing among the teams involved. Two different complementary strategies were put into practice to help these e-moderators achieve these objectives. Firstly, the chance to use an online cooperative environment was on offer. Named “e-Catalunya”, this online environment allows them to develop most of the main strategies involved in knowledge management. In this way, for example, this environment permits on the one hand the development of a series of actions to manage explicit knowledge (using systems of representation and protocol creation); and, on the other, it also allows a tacit knowledge management (using synchronic and diachronic socialisation strategies). Secondly, a policy of incentives was designed to ensure return on investment in both time and effort for these e- moderators. The incentives were principally economic, rewarding those actions that could help guarantee the correct working of the community they were responsible for. The policy was complemented with actions to promote the usage by the rest of the community, the potential users and also suppliers of knowledge, and active participation in the project. This allowed us to gather systematically all the knowledge generated in the project as well as the raw material to create a collection of good practices. The project involves, by a blended methodology, 20 communities of practice, 12 professional groups, and more than 1600 people. Keywords: Knowledge Creation, Judicial Environments, Knowledge Management, Collaborative Environments, Knowledge Technologies, Information Management. 1. Introduction Currently, it is not difficult to see that Knowledge Management (KM) is being positively received within organisations. Since the mid-90s, a significant number of corporations worldwide –especially multinationals– are turning slowly to the implementation of projects of this kind as a way of improving the efficacy and performance of their firms. However, it is not possible to claim that these types of projects are being implemented as a matter of course in the great majority of organisations. There is a particular type of organisation in which KM has had a general lack of application: public organisations. The reasons for this lack of application can be found in the special characteristics (like, for example, the absence of threats arising from a potential rival or the rigid civil service employment structure) that can be seen in these organisations and which has allowed them to avoid looking for new strategies in KM to guarantee their survival. Nevertheless, despite the difficulties, a series of interesting KM projects are being implemented by various public sector organisations which are not exclusively profit-based. Within the context of public organisations, one of the most noteworthy projects is being carried out within the Departament de Justícia of the Generalitat de Catalunya (the government of Catalonia). This project seeks to enable the community of workers in this administration to find a suitable context for the creation of knowledge and also to benefit from this knowledge such that each member of the Community ends up contributing more efficiently to the collective aim that is being pursued: to improve and streamline day-to-day praxis. This paper is aimed at outlining the project. To this end, we will be examining certain points. Firstly, in section 2, we are going to show the principal characteristics that knowledge exhibits in the judicial environment and describe how the project came about. In section 3, we are going to introduce a description of the Community of Practice which served as the driving force behind this project: the 1
  2. 2. community of social workers. Thirdly, in section 4, we are going to describe the map of existing communities, focusing on the figure of the e-moderator, on the functioning of these communities and on workshops on best practices. Lastly, in section 5, we will present a more or less detailed breakdown of the functions and role played by technological support, e-Catalunya, which has in this project allowed for communities to develop through a collaborative environment and social network. 2. Knowledge in judicial environments Within the context of the the Departament de Justícia, it is normal to give examples of the main problems associated with knowledge that have occurred in other similar public administrations. Such problems are due, for the main part, to the clearly identifiable characteristics that knowledge usually displays in these contexts. On the one hand, it is normal that there should not be a clear context that governs the creation of new knowledge. On the other, most of this knowledge remains exclusively within the minds of the professionals who have created it as part of their daily praxis and, as such, is not usually found represented in any of the usual types of documentary support (chiefly, electronic files or paper). This lack of representation means that the knowledge in question is geographically dispersed and poorly structured, inhibiting efforts to manage it in some way. Furthermore, training plans do not tend to reach all the collectives included in this context in the same way. And, lastly, as a corollary of all the preceding arguments, this knowledge is manifested in an almost exclusive fashion within those who already have it, only being accessible in a fragmented and superficial manner. For these reasons, in the last two years there has been an attempt to implement a Knowledge Management project within the Departament. The main objective sought by this project is twofold: to take advantage of a network of communities of practice, creating a context which allows for the creation of knowledge, and to establish the circuits and mechanisms for the collective usage of this knowledge. To bring about the implementation of this Knowledge Management system, a pilot programme was first prepared and it was decided that a specific community of practice should be activated: the community of social workers. Four months after this community came online, and after having extracted and analysed the first results, it was decided to activate the rest of the network of communities of practice (psychologists, librarians, etc). This network of communities was developed around a key organisational figure: the e-moderator. 3. The Community of Social Workers: one of the drivers of the project From the inception of the project, the community of social workers has become one of the central driving forces, serving as a model and allowing the development of the Knowledge Management programme. However, owing to the special characteristics of this community, it has been necessary to develop a methodology and strategies which are a little different to those of other communities. We began by showing that the collective of social workers plays an important role in judicial environments. The smooth functioning of the judicial system depends on them, along with judges and psychologists. Nevertheless, this collective has experienced numerous knowledge-related problems in the past, making it different from the rest. On the one hand, the standard of training received (university studies, mainly) has been shown to be wanting when it came to dealing with day-to-day praxis. Also, owing to different social factors (issues such as immigration, for example), the continually changing environment has accentuated these shortfalls in knowledge even more. On the other hand, there are no shared standards which can help us to standardise the quality of individual praxis. This lack of standards creates a situation in which actions of high quality share space with others which are inadequate. Lastly, the existing knowledge resides exclusively in the minds of professionals who have created it from the basis of their own daily praxis, and who are consequently not accustomed to sharing it with the rest of the collective. Faced with this panorama, the collective has historically demanded training schemes to help overcome this structural deficit and resolve any problems of knowledge. As a strategy to solve these problems, and with the full support of the Departament, it was decided that a Knowledge Management programme would be set up. The aim of the project was clear from the outset: to try to extract high-quality knowledge that came from individual practice and activate the necessary mechanisms so that the rest of the collective could take advantage of it. The benefits of what was being pursued were also clear. On the one hand, it was an attempt to improve the quality of praxis across the entire collective. On the other, the aim was to standardise the praxis of social workers. Lastly, we looked to offer an effective tool for the creation of collective knowledge favouring
  3. 3. the rapid adaptation and acceptance of newly hired social workers and lessening the negative consequences of losing the valuable knowledge of people who left the collective (because of illness or retirement). In order to achieve these aims and benefits, a start was made by drawing up a Knowledge Management pilot programme. The aim of this pilot programme was to establish the system on a small scale in order to foresee the possible benefits and consequences (positive and negative) and the modifications necessary to successfully carry out, during the second stage, a more extensive and exhaustive general project. In fact, the pilot programme was developed with a small but enthusiastic community of social workers (10 people) which included an easily controllable set of parameters. The chosen strategy was to select an issue which generally concerned the collective, and which, from the perspective of the gaining of knowledge, could offer positive results quickly enough to offer positive feedback. The issue chosen was that of reports. The main reason for this choice lay in the fact that a large part of a social worker’s responsibilities reside in preparing reports which, alongside reports prepared by other professionals (jurist and psychologists, for example), allow the relevant authorities to take decisions on the prisoners involved in prison trials. Paradoxically, however, the social workers never received any prior training to help them prepare these reports in a suitable and effective manner. Once the issue had been chosen, and after carrying out certain tests, the next working methodology was decided. Using the Focus Group technique, a number of regular and exclusively live meetings (2 per month) were arranged. These meetings were attended by the group of chosen social workers, along with a specialist Knowledge Management consultant. The group of social workers was composed of 10 people who were enthusiastic about the project and who suitably represented the diversity of the collective. Before each meeting, aided by the consultant, a daily agenda was prepared and a series of tasks was delegated to each participant. Each participant was able to develop and prepare these tasks with other social workers who were not members of the group. Later, at the live meeting, each participant was asked to present the chosen tasks, which were discussed (defended and evaluated) and, after reaching a consensus following these discussions, a series of conclusions were reached. These conclusions and all the proposals which had been generated were documented and stored in files. The objective being pursued in these meetings was clear: to identify the structural type of each report model, identify the profile of unsuitable reports (those rejected by the recipients) and bring together all the finished reports which could be considered as good models to be followed by the rest of the collective of social workers. These reports were collated with the aim of later becoming part of an archive of good practices which could serve to support the praxis carried out by social workers. The results obtained were significant. For four of the types of reports most commonly used by social workers, the following elements were achieved: a practical manual for the creation of reports, a Word template used in the creation of reports, a collection of best and worth practices (with regard to reports) which included examples to follow (and not follow) when preparing reports of this type, and a guide including indications for the simple and effective preparation of interviews with inmates, allowing for the collection of raw data for the preparation of reports. These products assisted in the later streamlining of reports being prepared about the same person throughout his or her time in the prison system. This could in turn give us an overview of the development of the inmate and the preparation of later reports. These templates were tested with the relevant organisations receiving the reports and were presented to the rest of the collective of social workers during the programming of a number of workshops. These workshops, as well as formally presenting the products, were also used to carry out training courses to promote the suitable use of these templates by the collective. Once the pilot programme had been covered, two more workgroups were prepared: one focusing on immigration and the other on alternative penal methods. The principal aim of the immigration group was to design a help system to be used by social workers when taking decisions on immigrant inmates. The main aim of the workgroup on alternative penal methods was to build a complete action protocol (including the design of the relevant reports) for social workers in cases where the sentences have been commuted to some type of community service. These two groups are currently working with a hybrid format: they arrange a monthly face-to-face meeting with a similar methodology to that of the pilot group and, directed by the e-moderator, they take advantage of the resources offered by the e-Catalunya platform in order to keep collaborating and working online between these meetings. 4. Other communities Alongside the running of the social worker community, a further thirteen communities of professionals were added gradually. As shown in fig. 1, the total number of professionals involved up until now (May
  4. 4. 2007) comes to 1012, comprising 21 active workgroups and 199 involved directly in the communities, generating knowledge (see table 1). Table 1: Communities, professionals, work areas and participants Areas of Collaborative Community Number of Professionals Direct Participants Work Community of ins- Self-training. 125 15 titutions Currículum of the GES. Social Education content in specific treatment Community of educators 135 programmes. 17 Knowledge pills in Social Education. Immigration. Community of jurists 65 Jurisprudence and 15 knowledge pills. Work with juvenile reoffenders. Community of profess- The model of intervention. sionnals in the open 45 Neonazi violence. 15 environment Domestic violence. Intervention in gypsy families. New intervention Community of mediators 35 methodologies in community 4 mediation. Report models. Community of social 95 Intervention en alternative workers 25 penal methods. Social work with migrants. Teaching pack (collection of Community of Artistic formative tools). 8 Monitors 35 Art teaching method. Community of Legal 35 Marketing of libraries. 6 Librarians Manual of procedures and content for preparing Community of e-Mode- 39 Knowledge Management 9 rators projects in Public Administration. Community of Legal Access protocol to legal 45 32 Archivists documentation Preparation of a catalogue of SLAJ services. Community of linguistic 48 Prepare a system for 6 motivators. resolution of doubts over terminology. Community of Clinical interviews in Initial 106 21 Psychologists Classification. Protocol for Intervention in
  5. 5. Alcohol cases in open environment E-rehabilitation (court Principal processes in 9 9 orders) rehabilitation programmes Social Educators in Good practices manual 120 8 Juvenile Crime. Professionals from the Good practices manual Technical Consultancy Service in Juvenile 45 Crime Total 982 190 As we will show in the following points, the working premise of the collaborative workgroups is based on four key elements: the e-moderator, the working methodology of the communities based on the work of Wenger (2000 and 2002) and Collison and Parcell (2001), the policy of distribution of created knowledge via workshops on best practices, and, finally, the development of an innovative incentives package. 4.1. The e-moderator The e-moderator has come to be the key figure in the knowledge management process. The selection process began with the formulation of a professional profile with a series of characteristics (see fig 2). From this starting point a consulting process was opened between the formal leaders of the organisation until a number of ideal candidates were found. After a series of interviews twelve (12) e- moderators were chosen for renewable yearly periods. Table 2: Characteristics of e-moderators Characteristics of e-moderators A person who: 1 Represents the community and has good leadership skills. 2 Participates in the institutional project. 3 Is respected and has influence in the community. 4 Has good communication skills. 5 Is familiar with working in technological environments. 6 Is a professional committed to advancing the area of knowledge in his / her professional area. The design of the training given was based on the principle of ‘learning by doing.’ Immediately they took on leadership and promotion functions – in person as well as in virtual settings – within their respective communities. As an aid to their work a course was designed with support, animation and leadership content in a virtual environment, imparted over the same technological platform that was being used for their communities. Following the debate generated in the forum and the input presented by an external consultant, different strategies were prepared in the direction and handling of these kinds of communities. Between February and March 2007, up to four debates were
  6. 6. developed about the type of learning which was required. Training was aimed at making sure that e- moderators were capable of assuming two types of roles: on the one hand they needed to chair debates (both in real and virtual environments), and on the other, they needed to become motivators in their community in order to gain acceptance and to be able to distribute the knowledge generated. 4.2. Working of the communities The work methodology followed was based on the work developed by Wenger (1998 and 2002) and adapted by Vazquez (2002) to our context. Putting it succinctly, the following steps were taken: a. Identification of the ideal collective. This needed to be a group of people who were ideally already motivated, or who could at least become enthusiastic when the idea was explained to them for the first time. In other words, people “who were up for doing the job.” The ideal situation was that in addition there would be at least one group in the collective that had already begun to meet and exchange knowledge about the work they were carrying out. b. Identification of recurring problems which faced the collective, or at least those which were more current. The members of the Community of Practice were asked about which issues they found themselves discussing most often, that is, which work issues they most commonly discussed when they were not working. c. Identify the person who would be the host of the Community of Practice (e-moderator). d. Organisation of the first attended meeting of the collective in question: The issues which were discussed were those which the e-moderator had identified (after consulting various members of the collective) as the “hottest” topics. e. Continuation of the Community of Practice’s conversations online, using the e-Catalunya platform and co-ordinated by the community’s e-moderator. Currently, as we indicated at the beginning of this section, the average active participation in each Community of Practice is around 15% of each professional collective. These figures are well above the typical participation reported in similar projects. 4.3. Workshops on best practices The Workshops on best practices have a key role in the final stage of the process, once the new knowledge has been gathered and prepared for use. These workshops are aimed at distributing and sharing with the entire professional collective all available new knowledge. They are programmed at the end of each stage in the process of knowledge management and are usually held once a year. The organisational outline revolves around these elements: a. Distribution of the acquired knowledge: it can be presented in printed documents, presentations etc. b. Involvement of an expert in this material. This expert is invited especially for the occasion and is asked to comment on the input made by the community to the process. c. Gathering of proposals for new issues to be covered in the future and small group debates on the proposals which are chosen. d. Incentive scheme and general motivation strategies. The relevance of an incentive scheme to ensure success in the creation and transmission of individual knowledge has been stressed on repeated occasions. In the project we are describing, various combined strategies were used. On the one hand direct financial incentives were used: the moderators were assigned a modest fund and, for each knowledge input provided, its authors received direct compensation. Apart from this compensation, other important incentives were also considered: the guarantee of publication for the best workers in their own journal and certification of the hours spent in the community of practice as training hours.
  7. 7. E-moderator: Summary of debates Knowledge capsules Library Community of Practice Relevant articles Workshop Knowledge on best Database practices Knowledge capsules Knowledge Knowledge capsules Portal External expertise Employee Figure 1: Knowledge Management System (adapted from Vasquez Bronfman 2007) 5. E-Catalunya: a platform for collaborative work The technological platform that allows the development of the communities is a collaborative environment and social network called e-Catalunya ( e-Catalunya is a platform for the creation and development of virtual communities promoted by the Generalitat de Catalunya so that citizens can communicate, work in teams and manage knowledge using online participation tools. So, it is clearly benefiting the Department de Justícia staff as it offers the ideal toolkit for online working collaboration, with Catalan government backing, and virtually no financial costs, and, in addition, ongoing use may provide ideas for improving future versions of this platform. Figure 2: e-Catalunya portal In contrast to other collaborative work solutions, e-Catalunya has been designed as a divisible and versatile system which means that workgroups can choose which tools to use according to their needs. It is a platform based on open-source software which allows users without specific technical knowledge to create and maintain communities in an uncomplicated manner.
  8. 8. The platform – which has already had more than 100,000 visits between January and July 2007 – includes an intelligent system of social and knowledge networks, which are built on the interaction between members of the community and the activities they carry out. This allows users, among other things, to get to know one another, to broaden their network of personal and professional contacts or have access to the content which has been added or viewed by other users with similar interests (Generalitat de Catalunya 2007). In more technical terms, this online environment offers the possibility of developing a large proportion of the principal strategies involved in Knowledge Management. In this way, for example, it permits on the one hand the development of a series of actions to manage explicit knowledge (using systems of representation and protocol creation). On the other, it also allows a tacit kind of knowledge management (using synchronic and diachronic socialisation strategies). To offer these functions, the platform includes a series of tools which can be activated or not according to the interests of the community: a photo album, a weblog (or blog), a calendar, a shared folder, a forum, a mailing list, a system of management of participative processes and a Wiki function. • The photo album allows the publication and sharing of images. • The weblog allows one or more authors to write and publish articles and news, as well as the comments and articles of others. The entries are presented in reverse chronological order (from more recent to less recent) and a monthly archive. It also allows the attachment of documents and the addition of recommended links to websites. • The calendar is a virtual diary which allows group members to organise and publicise events together (e.g. live meetings, congresses, report deadlines etc). The entries can be accompanied by commentaries and it is possible to create a register of participants for each activity. • The shared folder is a space for the management and sharing of all community files in various formats (text, multimedia, specific application files etc). • The forum is a space for open and lively debate, where all group members can share opinions and proposals. Entries are arranged by issue. • The mailing list collects all the mailing addresses of a group of people in one unique address. This way it is possible to send the same message in one transaction to an unlimited number of people. • The participative processes are used to gather short, structured information from community members, using custom questionnaires. It can be used to create opinion polls or to reach a consensual decision based on a users’ vote. • The Wiki function allows the collective creation and editing of documents. The communities use the tools to create strategic documents and monitor all the changes which are made, and also to create reference materials for members. All these tools have two update alerts without having to be connected to the platform: via RSS, which allows group members to see changes as they happen from personal e-mail accounts or from their computers; and via automatic e-mail updates. In the table 3 we can see the grade of adaptation of the tools included in the platform to the potential needs of the community. Table 3: Potential needs of the community and e-Catalunya tools (adapted from Generalitat de Catalunya 2007) Forum Blog Wiki Distribution Calendar Participative Shared folder Photograph list processes album Space for meetings, debates and discussion Communication channel between group members Support for internal meetings (programming, material preparation, taking of minutes, etc.) Consensual decision-making
  9. 9. Brainstorming Group activities report Report on events Creative collaboration on documents Project planning and management Support for symposia, congresses and other events Evaluation Storage and sharing of graphic material (photos, logos, etc.) In order to complete this description of the tool we can also comment that the platform uses a series of technological resources. Its infrastructure is based around an operating system (Linux), a web server (Apache), an application server (Tomcat), a database (MySQL) and an authentication system (OpenLDAP). As a portal infrastructure it incorporates a platform (exoPlatform) and a Single Sign-On protocol (JOSSO). As collaboration tools, it includes a Wiki (XWiki), forums (phpBB), weblogs (XWiki), mailing lists (Sympa) and a search engine (Lucene). It also includes a text editing toolbar (FCKeditor) as an additional feature. 6. Conclusions From experience on this project we have been able to draw a set of interesting conclusions and learned a series of lessons easily applicable to most of KM projects oriented towards public administration. The first conclusion was an obvious one, namely, that the project had allowed us to help reduce some of the knowledge-based problems, particularly in relation to creativity and dissemination, which we had identified within the Departament. As for the second, it was clear that ensuring the success of a community of practice called for the implementation of two important measures, at least in the initial phase. While it is on the one hand vital to be able to rely on the participation of an external expert that will introduce and consolidate discussion methods for creating and capturing knowledge. It is also important during this phase to organise face-to-face meetings so that the work does not get restricted to getting done online. That initial physical meeting ensures some bonding, and provides the mechanisms for subsequently working online. New knowledge is not simply produced from the mere potential for working in the virtual world. Only in those communities where prior bonding takes place and interests are shared does the online work really bear fruit. The third conclusion has to do with training. Based on our experience, we have detected the critical need to train community members in two aspects: information literacy and communication techniques. Without this training, the community members are not going to be able to make the most of the platform’s potential. Conclusion number four is centred on the need for a policy of incentives. Particularly for public administration, it is necessary to introduce a public and transparent incentives policy to help the project run smoothly. Lastly, one important fact worthy of attention: success breeds success. We have significantly noted a certain infectiousness – and competitiveness, too – among communities, with the most positive consequences. So the degree of success of each community translates into the one of the most
  10. 10. important factors for stimulating work in the remaining communities for creating new and useful knowledge. References Collison, C. and Parcel, G. (2001) Learning to Fly, Capstone, Oxford. Davenport, T. (2005) Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performances And Results from Knowledge Workers, Harvard Business School Press, Boston. Generalitat de Catalunya (2007). “QueEseCatalunya”, [online], Generalitat de Catalunya, Wenger, E., McDermott, R. and Snyder, W. (2002) Cultivating communities of practice, Harvard Busines School Press, Boston. Vasquez Bronfman, S. (2007). quot;The launching of a knowledge management project in a public administration”, Paper read at XIVth EDINEB Conference, Viena, June. Wenger, E. and Snyder, W. (2000). “Communities of practice: the organizational frontier”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 78, No 1, pp 139-145).